House Republicans failed Thursday to pass a Defense Department budget bill, a sign of how much internal chaos the party is struggling with.
The House rejected a procedural rule to begin debate on the bill by a vote of 212–216. Far-right Republicans Marjorie Taylor Greene, Dan Bishop, Andy Biggs, Eli Crane, and Matthew Rosendale broke from their party to kill the measure.
It was the second failed rules vote in a week on defense appropriations. It is incredibly rare for rules votes like this to fail, an indication of the fact that Republicans are in full disarray.
Mike Lawler, a moderate Republican, slammed his fellow party members. “They have to come to a realization: If they are unable or unwilling to govern, others will. And in a divided government where you have Democrats controlling the Senate, a Democrat controlling the White House, there needs to be a realization that you’re not going to get everything you want,” he said.
“Just throwing a temper tantrum and stomping your feet, frankly, not only is it wrong—it’s pathetic.”
Tim Burchett criticized Republicans for being “very dysfunctional right now.” He then made a rare and shocking admission: “Speaker Pelosi, love her or hate her, she put something out there and they’d rally around it.”
The farthest-right wing of the House has insisted it will block all appropriations bills unless funding is cut dramatically. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was confident Wednesday night that he had the votes to pass the defense bill, which would have been a major step forward in the stalemate. But he failed to convince the last five holdouts, even after a two-and-a-half-hour party meeting.
The danger now is that the House will not reach a resolution by the September 30 deadline. McCarthy has insisted on passing bills with just Republican votes, but given his razor-thin majority, that clearly isn’t always possible.
Even if House Republicans do manage to pass a bill, if it isn’t a clean bill, it will likely fail in the Democratic-controlled Senate. The risk of a government shutdown after the September 30 deadline is looming ever larger.
And Republicans, rather than trying to come together, are turning on each other instead. Most of the Republican holdouts are members of the Freedom Caucus, which was largely responsible for the 15 agonizing rounds of voting for House speaker in January.
McCarthy ultimately won, but only after making multiple concessions to the caucus. One concession was agreeing to restore the motion to vacate, which would allow any single member of the House to call for a vote to remove him. Some lawmakers are threatening to strip McCarthy of the gavel over the spending bills.